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Almost half of American children riding in vehicles are improperly restrained or not restrained at all, according to a survey released earlier this month by the National SAFE KIDS Campaign.
That information is prompting a renewed call for child car seat awareness this week, which has been designated National Child Passenger Safety Week. The Juneau SAFE KIDS Coalition is among the groups nationwide advocating for proper child passenger restraints.
The national survey, conducted from November 2001 through January of this year, gathered data by observing 6,297 vehicles carrying 9,332 children.
The results found that 14 percent of children were completely unrestrained and one-third were restrained, but in the wrong type of restraint for their size.
63 percent of the children in the wrong type of restraint were children under 80 pounds and less than 4'9" who were using only shoulder and lap belts.
Juneau SAFE KIDS Coalition Coordinator Karen Lawfer said in order for belts to work properly for those children, they need to be seated in a booster seat.
"People think that once they get rid of the car seat, they are ready for a shoulder belt and lap belt," Lawfer said. "That's just not true."
Even when a booster or traditional child safety seat is used, it may be ineffective if not properly installed. Tonya Richards, a child passenger safety technician with the Juneau Public Health Center, said studies have indicated more than four-fifths of safety seats are installed incorrectly.
The Juneau Public Health Center offers individual child safety seat check-ups, and can be contacted at 465-3353.
Lawfer said it is important for parents to put up with the short-term inconvenience of using car safety seats to avoid long-term devastation.
"Get them restrained, make sure its correct - even if it's just a quick trip to the store," she said.
For more information on child passenger safety, visit www.safekids.org or www.nhtsa.dot.gov.